Granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower in search of funds to restore former Presidential aircraft

By Nick Gosnell
February 21, 2015

Mary Jean Eisenhower has very early childhood memories of seeing her grandfather, then President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the Columbia II, which was the plane that prompted the change in call sign for any plane the President is in to be called Air Force One. At the time she recalls, the Columbia II was actually the backup plane to the then Air Force One, Columbia III. However, when she visited the plane where it currently sits at Marana Airport outside Tucson, Arizona, she was surprised at what she recalled.

Eisenhower said in an interview with Mid Kansas Online News Director Nick Gosnell, "When I went in the inside of the plane, it had different light fixtures that were still there and that kind of thing. All of a sudden, I could remember seeing them and I could remember talking to certain people aboard and things like that. So, it was really, extremely interesting."

Eisenhower would like to see the plane brought back to the Midwest and turned into a 'flying museum' to her grandfather's legacy. Eisenhower said, "The restoration would take it back to what it was when my grandfather had it."

A group including Eisenhower and John Roper from the National Airline History Museum in Kansas City, Missouri is seeking to obtain the aircraft.

The aircraft would be based out of the Kansas City, Missouri Downtown Airport. Eisenhower said, "It would service the entire region and would make frequent trips to Kansas."

The Columbia II was airworthy in the early 90s. In fact, Eisenhower recalls seeing the aircraft in Kansas in 1990.

Eisenhower said. "In 1990, it did a flyover at the Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, in honor of Granddad's 100th year."

The restoration does come at a price, though. Just to ferry the plane back to the Kansas City area to begin the restoration process would be in the neighborhood of $250,000.

Then the actual restoration work could begin, with no final number on that cost.

The hope is that if the money were obtained, the plane could be restored and flying in time for the 2016 Republican Presidential Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.